• Question: Are people less likely to get ill in space?

    Asked by SiminTanya to Beth on 15 Oct 2015.
    • Photo: Beth Healey

      Beth Healey answered on 15 Oct 2015:

      Hi SiminTanya,

      Great question!

      All astronauts have extensive medicals before heading to space so are really fit before they go. However the ISS is a closed, confined environment and astronauts breathe recycled air so the transmission of infectious diseases is easier (this is also exacerbated by the lack of gravity so bugs can float around to reach a new host!). Having said that the astronauts are not regularly exposed to new bugs because they don’t have many visitors (not like on a busy tube train in London where there are lots of ‘disease hosts’ (people with bugs!) from which you can catch diseases)

      We are also doing research here at Concordia looking at the effects of isolation on immune system depression, which could be something which would put astronauts at risk during long duration spaceflight missions.

      As well as disease the lack of gravity puts unusual pressures on an astronauts bodies and can cause fluid shifts (this is why astronauts faces often look quite puffy!). This cause many different problems for example loss of bone mineral density.

      I found an interesting article online called ‘Don’t sneeze in space!’ which may be of interest if you would like some more information: